Avoiding Injuries in the Gym


by Josh Hodnik

Painful muscles and joints are a common condition that affects young and aging bodybuilders at some point. Minor injuries with little pain will usually heal on their own, but more sever ailments may need medical attention. The focus should always be to avoid injuries in the gym completely. It isn’t easy to train effectively when an injury inhibits strength, flexibility, and range of motion. There are several proven tricks that will help you drastically reduce the risk of injuries.

Proper warm-ups are an important step in preventing injuries. More common than not, our warm up before hitting the weights is only the walk from the car to the gym door. Before picking up any weights, it is always advised to get on a stationary bike for 5 to 10 minutes. This increases the body temperature and blood flow and it stabilizes blood pressure. Then a warm up set should be performed. To conserve energy before working sets, the warm up set should be 8-10 reps with only 50 percent of max weight. This warm up set should be slow, using strict form.

Always Stretch. During training, stretching should be performed between each set. The stretch should specifically be aimed at the muscle being trained. Many do not stretch while training because of falsely believing that it will exhaust the muscle. Stretching the muscle increases blood flow. This allows more oxygen and nutrients into the muscle tissue, which actually slows muscle exhaustion. One last good stretch should be done once you have completed the last set on a specific body part. Stretches should last at least 45 seconds each, while taking deep breaths.

Make a conscious attempt to relax the muscle being stretched. Stretching after training can be a bit uncomfortable, but it will decrease joint discomfort and injuries. Post training stretching also increases flexibility, decreases soreness, and it helps to strengthen the joints.

High levels of stress can have a negative impact in different areas. Stress can increase the chance of heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. But, it can also lead to impaired joint function. Age also plays a part in our declining muscle and tissue loss. Most men over the age of forty, have probably began to experience a substantial loss in muscle, bone and/or cartilage.

Many start seeing declines in connective tissue quantity and quality, as early as mid-thirties. An age related rise in cortisol is to blame for connective tissue destruction. Cortisol is a hormone that is can get elevated during high levels of stress. If stressful periods are long lasting, it can cause the elevated cortisol to become chronic. The reduction in connective tissue and cartilage from cortisol can cause loss of joint strength, mobility, and leave you susceptible to an injury. Overtraining can also lead to an elevation of cortisol, causing more injuries.

Taking the right supplements will ease joint pain and increase joint health. There are several supplements available that slow arthritic progression. They may not directly help to prevent injuries, but they will lessen the aches and pains that many experience in the gym.

Chondroitin is a supplement that suppresses inflammatory pathways in the body. Some studies have actually shown that this supplement slows the progression of joint damage.

Ginger extract, polyunsaturated fatty acids and MSM are three supplements that have proven therapeutic benefits. They can relieve joint pain and inflammation and help to alleviate morning joint stiffness.

Glucosamine is a supplement that exerts both pain relieving and disease inhibiting actions in the joints. According to studies, MSM and glucosamine should be taken for at least 12 weeks to experience the full benefits.

Hydration is also a very important part of overall joint health. Staying properly hydrated helps to maintain blood volume, which allows nutrients to move freely to your joints, ligaments, and cartilage. Almost all of our body parts require proper hydration to be able to do their job. When cartilage and ligaments are not properly hydrated, they are much more prone to tears. Preventing a joint injury is yet another reason to make sure you are drinking plenty of water every day.

There is no way to completely prevent muscle and joint injuries from happening in the gym, but these steps will drastically reduce the risk of these injuries and will greatly improve mobility and joint health.

Further reading on joint support supplements:
Joint Supplements Not Exciting but Necessary